2023 - A Wrap

My end of year summary of 2023. It was quite the year!

2023... WTF was that?

This year felt crazy. It felt like there were a lot more down points this year as plans and projections kept failing and falling over. A lot was happening at work, and that's where most of my energy was drawn into. There were a couple of highlights though:

  1. Fiji - We had a great week in Fiji. There was a bit of drama, but it was such a good break during winter in a beautiful and friendly place.
  2. Port Lincoln - My wife and I headed to Port Lincoln to do the shark dive - jumping into a steel cage to see real-life Great White Sharks in their natural habitat. We saw four different sharks on the day! We spent the other days exploring the local area, the two national parks and some amazing sights and fresh seafood.
  3. Birthdays - My mum's 70th and brother's 40th birthdays were this year. Mum's was a big family event and the first in a few years. It was great to see all the cousins and nieces all together.
  4. Graduation - Seeing Ms A graduate from primary school. It's a much bigger deal than I remember, but it is a significant milestone for her and us as parents.

There were a couple of work highlights too:

  1. Colombia - I gave an online presentation as part of the federal Department of Education & Training's initiative in South America. I did one last year for Brazil, so was aware of the bi-lingual nature of the event and what was involved. There were over 350 people in attendance on Zoom, which I was super impressed by.
  2. ACODE LTLI - A week in Queensland in August is never a bad thing. This institute was a lot of work and effort, though. It was great to get out of my bubble and meet a bunch of new people, as well as get to know my colleagues from Adelaide better during our downtime.

Change at work

There was tremendous change at work, with the bulk of it starting in February and dragging out until August. I watched my career trajectory, or at least the way I imagined it going, crumble in front of my eyes. All the work I've been doing over the last three years seemed to be leading to a specific point, and it seemed to be all on track. That all got completely derailed pretty early in the year, and I spent the rest of the year spinning. Rather than having leadership that steadied the ship and provided clear direction, we seemed to have the opposite — management keen on disruption for its own sake, an inability to communicate and unwillingness to engage their teams, under-baked ideas, no plans for operations and an obsession with adding more and more instability and momentum to the spiral and spin.

December has come, and my previous career path has disappeared in front of me. I've felt increasingly angry, disrupted and troubled by this. I guess it is part of a grieving process, and I need to be comfortable with that being what has happened - grief. There was something clear and tangible that has taken away. There has been a loss, and it seems right to grieve.

I don't think I'm alone in experiencing this, but it's probably the first time in my life I've felt that I wasn't going in the right direction, not just in an upward direction but in general. Much of the effort I have put into things hasn't been rewarded or, honestly, even recognised.

Knowledge Work

Part of my problem is making space for this grieving process to happen, to re-evaluate my position and make some decisions. One of the fundamental challenges of knowledge work is it involves your brain and thinking, which means making space and separating work and life is incredibly challenging. I found the two inexorably linked and that both were affecting each other. The problems at work bled into home life. The time needed to think ate into family time. I find this difficulty of knowledge work to be different from manual labour, especially when the job requires a machine or a specific location to do the work. Separation becomes easier if it is physical; there's a clear demarcation point in the day between work and family. At the end of this year I've been completely exhausted all of the time. My brain is done and I haven't been there for my family or able to engage in the other pursuits.

In the week off I've had so far - I can see there needs to be some pretty fundamental changes in 2024. I want to spend the first few weeks of the year working through that. I have to really reevaluate this whole work/life balance concept, but the focus needs to be on me.


I've probably hit that midlife crisis point in terms of my career. I have started to ask myself that fundamental question — what am I doing?

I haven't really enjoyed going to work this year. I don't think work should make you sad or angry. The culture has changed significantly over the last year and it hasn't made it a pleasant place to be.

That said the people I work with and those that I have recruited into the team are amazing. One of the positives of the year has been the fact that I've spent more time collaborating across teams and areas. That's been incredibly fulfilling and I honestly think if that hadn't happened this year would have felt a lot darker than it has.

A new plan

I think it's time to evaluate where I am and where I am going. Luckily, I've got time to do that over January as I've taken four weeks off.

Coming up to my 40th birthday, everything was looking good. We made a big change moving to Adelaide and taking on new jobs. Covid hit and that's had a much bigger effect on my life than I thought. There's a trauma that we've gone through over the last few years that still hasn't been processed. So much changed - not just from the lockdowns, but how we interact, who we interact with and the confidence to get out there. Covid was such a big disruption and such a big traumatic event that life returning to normal really means now its normality wrapped around the trauma and isolation that occurred. It's not a return to "normal" but "normal + trauma".

I can feel now a deep need to connect. I don't think I've spent a lot on the other things outside of work — individual pursuits, connection opportunities, socialising and networking. Work has been a leech on my energy and it's had a real parasitic effect on my wellbeing.

So, instead, I want to put effort into those spaces that give me energy and to seek out more joy and positivity.

So here's to 2024!